Fairtrade Fortnight Sign Off

Slept very well last night, knowing that I didn’t have to worry about exactly what clothes were clean and ironed in the same way this morning, but still found myself drawn to the fair trade selection in my wardrobe!

I just thought I would put together a few last bits and pieces before signing off for good.  Here are the highlights:

Orla Kiely Trench Coat from People TreeTop 5 fair trade items in my wardrobe:

  1. My Orla Kiely Trench Coat from People Tree.  Did I mention, I love that coat..?
  2. Fleece Jacket from People Tree – absolutely brilliant to throw over anything making you instantly toasty with zero style compromise!
  3. Ethletic Trainers – These are comfy, stylish and oh so ethical.  What’s not to like?
  4. Laural check dress from People Tree – So soft and such a flattering cut.
  5. Printed Babycord skirt from Bishopston Trading Company.  Classic shape, subtle print, gorgeous.

Top 5 things I wish I’d bought before I started

  1. Annie Greenabelle Grey Vintage Sports DressAnything at all from Annie Greenabelle.  Although I am probably too advanced in years to be able to wear many of these clothes, I’m sure there would have been something to suit me.  It’s all very girly and sweet but at the same time incredibly stylish.  Make sure you click the fairtrade tab though – not all of her stuff is fair trade.  I particularly like the look of the Grey Vintage Sports Dress.
  2. Traidcraft purple cardigan – I think I would have been warmer more of the time if I’d had this one at hand!  Looks as though it drapes beautifully and lovely to have a colour other than black or grey!
  3. As above, this Gossypium hoodie would have given me a few more cosy moments.  The bright pink one looks fab.
  4. I think a blouse from Bishopston Trading Company would have looked somewhat better than the one I made.
  5. Another pair of earrings would have been nice.  Perhaps a bit smaller.  There are lots to choose from at Traidcraft.

5 things you can buy instead of making:

  1. Bishopston Trading Company Flower BroochFlower Brooches – Bishopston have some lovely ones
  2. Cool knickers – Kerrie Curzon at Charm & Laundry makes gorgeous feminine knickers and will use fair trade fabric to do it if you specify this.  Her stuff is lovely!
  3. Handbag – Traidcraft has some very funky ones
  4. Also, People Tree has a gorgeous bag from Orla Kiely
  5. Shopping Bag – I particularly like this one from People Tree which has a lovely illustration featuring ‘Beautiful shoots from beautiful roots’

Top 5 sources of further information on fair trade and cotton:

  1. The Great Cotton Stitch-up – report by the Fairtrade Foundation on the impact of cotton subsidies on marginalised cotton farmers
  2. Oxfam report on EU and US subsidies and their impact
  3. The Cotton Campaign – covers the Uzbekistan forced child labour issues in detail
  4. Environmental Justice Foundation – covers both the forced child labour in Uzbekistan and also many of the environmental impact issues
  5. More on Cotton from the Fairtrade Foundation – lots of background information and FAQs on Fairtrade certified cotton

That’s it – I’m done.  Hope you all had a very good Fairtrade Fortnight.  I’m off to eat some Fairtrade chocolate….

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Day 14 – Today’s look, very happy!

I really can’t believe this is the last day of the challenge.  And I’m wearing a couple of things today that you haven’t seen before, which amazes me, although probably that means I now have too many clothes…

Day 14 of the Fairtrade Fortnight Fashion Challenge - all in blueToday I am wearing:

Bra – The one that kicked the whole thing off – made by me from Fairtrade certified fabric!

Pants – ‘Fairly Floral’ by ‘Life’s not Fair but my Knickers Are’ – worn in the desperate hope that they haven’t disappeared.  If you like, you can check their website here in a slightly obsessive fashion like me.  Or not…

Trousers – People Tree.  These are from a previous season, but they quite often do trousers in this kind of cotton poplin which gives them just a lovely sheen and drape.  I think these might be made of the same fabric, as might these.

T-shirt – my £6 number from Sainsbury’s.  All their crew neck T-shirts are made with Fairtrade certified cotton and they are all equally good value.

Earrings – People Tree.  Still loving these.  You can get them here.

Tie-Front Jersey Top – Made by me from fair trade cotton jersey.  This is another version of the Day 2 top, but this one I dyed navy blue.  Still with reservations about the eco impact of using a commercial dye, but completely delighted with the colour.  Hmmm.  Must work my way through this one!

Well I must say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last fortnight.  I’ve taken a pleasure in my clothes in a way that I don’t, usually.  I’ve stepped outside my usual uniform, enjoyed the challenge of working within a restricted set of clothes and working out how to make outfits from them and I’ve felt really good about it.  The only day when I didn’t love my outfit was day 11, and that was very much my own fault!

Fairtrade Fortnight Fashion Challenge - all the outfitsI think you can see from the pics above that there have been some late nights of making – I do look increasingly sunken-eyed as the fortnight progressed, but it was very much worth it.  Thanks very much for the lovely comments and encouragement I’ve had along the way.

The stats say that the blog has had over 2000 visits since its inception, which is 2000 steps we can add to the Fairtrade Foundation’s Step meter.  And if you’ve been prompted to buy any fair trade fashion or other items during Fairtrade Fortnight, or to talk to other people about fair trade, do go to the Take a Step website and add your steps too.  The aim is to get to 1.5m ‘steps’ by the end of the year – one for every fair trade producer the organisation aims to work with this year.  The tally as I type stands at 410,055, so the target seems achievable!

Speaking of the fair trade step, two of the companies I’ve mentioned lots this fortnight are Fair Corp who make the Ethletic Trainers and ‘Pants to Poverty.’  They have teamed up to make a fun video of the ‘Fairtrade Step’ for Fairtrade fortnight.  They’re not alone either.  If you search on You Tube for “Take a Step for Fairtrade,” you’ll find lots!

Back tomorrow with some links and some top 5s, but for now, I leave you with the video – do have a look!  Click here…

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Day 13 – Today’s look, relaxed

Just chillin’ today – for the first time in ages we’re home for the weekend with nothing in particular going on, so I can be slouchy and comfy.

Day 13 - Relaxed fair trade clothes for SaturdayToday I am wearing:

T-shirt – People Tree.  It’s an old one.  So old in fact it has a hole on one shoulder (that’s how relaxed I am…).  It has a great floral/paisley pattern on the front which hopefully you can see on the picture.  Once again, its age means that you can’t get hold of it any more but the shape and style is quite similar to this one.

Leggings – People Tree.  These are new although I wore them last Saturday at my Dad’s party.  You couldn’t see that they were cropped with buttons at the ankle in that picture, so I’m glad to wear them again before the fortnight’s up!  You can buy them here.

Fleece Jacket – People Tree again.  I did manage to find a great hoodie from Gossypium that would have been great for today, but unfortunately I had some problems with my credit card on their website, and then couldn’t get hold of them by phone in time to get something here before tomorrow.  Still, you can have a look at what I would have been wearing here.

Shoes – Ethletic trainers from Fair Corp.  Check out yesterday’s post for a £10 off special offer on these – but only if you’re quick!

Bra – Made by me from Fairtrade certified cotton fabric.  It’s Bra1 today, together with matching…

Pants – Well, once I’d made some to go with the other bra I had to do it for this one too.

Pants made with Fairtrade certified cotton fabric to go with the Fairtrade Fortnight braI used the same free pattern from Cloth magazine, the remnants of the charity shop doily that I used in the first bra, and scraps of fabric to match the bra.  Quick, simple, fair trade and completely unique!

I can’t quite believe that tomorrow is the last day of Fairtrade Fortnight, but it’s set me thinking about all the stuff that I haven’t covered in my challenge.

I’ve said not a word about nightwear – mainly because I have no desire to post pictures of myself in my nightwear on the internet, but there’s plenty out there.    People Tree, BishopstonTraidcraft, and Gossypium all have nightwear.

There’s plenty for men too.  Pants to Poverty has plenty of Men’s undies, and Gossypium, Traidcraft and People Tree have various things, although there is a bit of a focus on shirts and T-shirts.

Kids fare better – Bishopston Trading Company does some lovely things for kids, as do People Tree, although the latter seem to be in a transition between ranges so there’s not much there at the moment.  Both these companies do clothes for babies and then for little boys and girls up to 6 years.  Gossypium also has a few bits and pieces.

When it comes to ethical school uniform there’s a surprising degree of choice.  Marks and Spencer have a limited range, but the Gossypium range is a bit better with more colour options.  Credit where credit’s due – Tesco have a brilliant range.  Again, the colour options are a bit limited, but there is plenty of choice of style and their kids summer dresses look very sweet.  Alternatively, if you’re thinking of lobbying your school to change its uniform items which are embroidered with the school name, then this tie-up between Traidcraft and Kool Schools is the best place to start.

I don’t really feel as though I have done justice to the bags and bits and pieces either.  Traidcraft and Bishopston both have some lovely handbags and plenty of the types of flower brooches and jewellery that I’ve been making all week.  In the case of Bishopston, this also comes from the ethic of wanting to use every last precious scrap of their fabric, and I applaud them for it.  Do have a good trawl around their sites if you’re interested.  There’s all sorts of things from bunting to cuddly toys, to purses, to mobile phone holders.

Tomorrow will be a celebration of Fairtrade Fortnight – I do hope you’ll check in one last time!


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Day 12 – Today’s look, spring

Today’s outfit was a joy to wear in today’s lovely spring weather, even if it was a bit chilly by the time we got around to taking the photograph!

Day 12 outfit - Spring fair trade skirt and T-shirtToday I am wearing:

T-Shirt – People Tree.  It’s an old one, but I like it.  In case you can’t read the wording, it says ‘Smile and the World Smiles With You.’  Trite, but sweet and it goes very nicely with the skirt.  This one is no longer available, but they have lots more here.

Skirt – People Tree.  I’m having to recycle some things from my wardrobe to make it through 2 weeks, but at least it’s only the skirt from Day 4 that I’m wearing again.  Oh, and the bra…

Bra – Made by me from Fairtrade certified cotton fabric.  It’s the second bra, and I have also made…

Pants – Yes, I’ve made matching pants and am delighted with them!  Made from the same Fairtrade certified cotton as the bra.  I’ve been thinking that perhaps my bras needed matching knickers and when I found I had no clean fair trade pants this morning it provided all the motivation I needed.  The pattern is mercifully quick to make.

Shoes – Ethletic Fairtrade certified trainers.  Still loving these.  I think they are one of my favourite purchases.  Fair Corp are running a promotion on these at the moment – £10 off if you use the voucher code TAKEASTEP.  It’s quite hard not to pick up a second pair, but I really can’t justify spending any more on clothes at the moment.  Offer ends Sunday, so don’t hang about if you are considering it!

About 6 years ago I lived, for a few months, with my Aunty whilst I was trying to buy a house.  It was very good of her to have me especially as she’d lived on her own for many years so it must have been very strange to have me in the house.  We got on very well and shared nicely, but she really wasn’t a fan of my pants at all.  ‘More like scraps’ was her frequent refrain.  I don’t think she liked hanging my too-smalls on the line for the neighbours to see.

Well these are genuine scraps!  You can make a pair of pants from very little fabric, and I reckon this is where my scrap filing system really comes into its own.

Scrap fabrics - this basket contains the long strips we use to make up the Fabric 'String' balls

Scrap fabrics - this basket contains the long strips we use to make up the Fabric 'String' balls

Scrap material filing system for fair trade fabric

The taller basket at the back contains the smallest scraps used for sending out as samples or distributed free to students and children at the various exhibitions we attend. Larger scraps go into the basket at the front and are often made into scrappy quilts

I mentioned early on that I’ve become used to thinking about the handloom woven cotton I sell and use in terms of how long it took someone to weave.  It makes it truly difficult to throw away even very small pieces when you can picture the effort someone has invested in making it.  But beyond that, cotton is very ‘costly’ to produce in resource terms.  It requires lots of water, and then there is either liberal spraying with pesticides and insecticides, or in the case of organic cotton, lots of weeding, cultivation of companion plants to minimise pests, and the careful management of natural predators as an additional control for common cotton pests.  Commentators on sustainability speculate that bamboo fibre, which absorbs greenhouse gases during its life cycle and grows quickly and plentifully without pesticides, might be a better long term solution to our need for clothing fibres.  However, even bamboo fabric can cause environmental harm in production due to the chemicals used to create a soft viscose from hard bamboo.  Others believe hemp is one of the best choices as an eco fabric due to its ease of growth, though it remains illegal to grow in some countries. As in so many other areas, the optimal solution seems to be to make the very best use of the fabrics we have, using scraps and recycling old clothing, furnishings etc through one means or another.

New fair trade pants to match Bra 2And so to my pants.  A good rummage through the ‘larger piece’ basket provided some bits of the bra fabric and I still had some of the trimming left.  I used a pattern published in Cloth magazine and still available free online here. I used a scrap of the cotton jersey left over from making the tie top from Day 2 for the gusset.  (Why is the word ‘gusset’ so funny?  I can’t even type it without wanting to giggle like a school girl.).  I sewed strips of my fabrics together to create a larger piece from which to cut the pattern, then decorated with the trim.  The instructions advise you to use a decorative stitch around the top of the pants and round the leg holes to make a pretty edge rather than hemming it.  This worked surprisingly well.  Then you just add the elastic.  The pattern says to attach 4 pieces of elastic, beginning at point A and sewing the stretched elastic in place until you reach point B.  On the actual pattern, there is no reference to points A or B, but it’s fairly obvious which are the 4 edges that require elastic.  Then you sew up the side seams and hey presto, a new pair of pants.  Hurrah!

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Day 11 – Today’s look, not completely sure about this one…

Happy International Women’s Day!  Fair trade has lots to say on the subject of women’s rights, but first, the outfit.

Day 11 fair trade outfit for Fairtrade FortnightToday I am wearing:

Pants – Fairly Floral by Life’s not Fair but my Knickers Are.  I’m starting to panic a bit about these guys.  Absolutely everything on their site is out of stock!

Bra – Made by me from Fairtrade certified cotton fabric (See Day 4 for more details).  And it doesn’t show through the light coloured shirt, so mission accomplished!

Trousers – People Tree.  I think they might have been called Vivienne Trousers, but they’re from a while ago.  They have a gorgeous shape and have been too small for me for ages but I’ve made real efforts to lose some of the extra pounds since Christmas and have been rewarded with the ability to do the button up again on these shapely trousers!  In the current range, the Laura Trousers are a bit like these.

Socks – Ah my old faithful Bishopston socks.  No sign of wear and tear after being worn so intensively in the last couple of weeks!

Blouse – Made by me from Fairtrade certified cotton fabric, but it hasn’t turned out quite how it was in my mind’s eye.  I love this fabric.  I’ve wanted to use it for all sorts of things since we first stocked it but I saved it for making this blouse.  I don’t think I’ve quite done it justice.

I’ve followed a commercial pattern for this one.  It’s from Hot Patterns and it’s a simple Princess shirt so it’s quite fitted and I thought it would work well with these trousers.  There are quite a few pieces but the pattern is simple enough to make, especially if you don’t make the long sleeve version and so avoid having to do cuffs!  I have buttons made with the coordinating plain green fabric, so was excited to be able to use them, and to use the same fabric for the facing, creating a different coloured collar section.  However, the collar is enormous, the loose hanging sleeves look a bit strange, and the choice of this particular fabric makes me look as though I’m late for my shift at a well known upmarket supermarket beginning with W.  I do like the fit and shape through the body of the shirt, but when I make it again (as I will, because I cut the pattern pieces for shirt 2 before finishing shirt 1…) I’ll taper the sleeves substantially more, finish them with piping and try to do something different with the collar!  At the very least, leaving out the interfacing should help to make it a bit less likely to have someone’s eye out.

I’ve been using my fleece jacket to tame the collar during the day and as yet there have been no injuries.

Fair trade and women then!

The World Fair Trade Organisation prescribes 10 Principles that Fair Trade Organizations must follow in their day-to-day work and carries out monitoring to ensure these principles are upheld.  Principle 6 is ‘Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equity and Freedom of Association.’  There’s a lot of detail behind this principle, but the key section to be looking at on International Women’s Day is this…

The organization does not discriminate in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on … gender, ….. or age. The organization provides opportunities for women and men to develop their skills and actively promotes applications from women for job vacancies and for leadership positions in the organization. The organization takes into account the special health and safety needs of pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers. Women fully participate in decisions concerning the use of benefits accruing from the production process.

Organizations working directly with producers ensure that women are always paid for their contribution to the production process, and when women do the same work as men they are paid at the same rates as men. Organizations also seek to ensure that in production situations where women’s work is valued less highly than men’s work, women’s work is re- valued to equalize pay rates and women are allowed to undertake work according to their capacities.

This is a great set of words, and covers off some really important areas that could have been overlooked.  The insistence that women fully participate in the decisions about how the  Fairtrade Premiums are used must in part be responsible for the fact that so many projects create childcare facilities and maternity services with the money they receive.

The stipulation that if women’s work is different from men’s and as a consequence they are paid less, then their work must be re-valued to equalize pay is something I don’t think would be taken for granted in many a western nation.

If they were only words, of course, then they wouldn’t amount to terribly much.  It would be easy to be cynical and to assume that cultural norms would prevail in some of the less developed societies that are most in need of fair trade support.  However, there are plentiful stories of local women rising to senior positions within fair trade producer groups, women supporting themselves and their families with their work and shaping the future of their communities.

Agrocel, the cotton farming producer group that provides the raw ingredients for most of the stocks at Fair Trade Fabric, spends some of their Fairtrade premiums on self help groups for female farmers.  There are 5 groups with 74 members in total (of a total of 1005 members) and they each join the savings scheme and open their own bank account.  There is education in women’s health and literacy as well as training on how to make good compost and how to clear the cotton to improve its quality.

In KV Kuppam, the village that supplies most of the hand woven fabrics and clothing sold by Bishopston Trading Company, many of the cutters, tailors, hand-finishers, and embroiderers that work in the Tailoring Socities are women.  Their earnings are equal to the men, and their incomes allow them to support their families.

These are just the two examples that I know plenty about, but the story is repeated wherever I look at the stories behind fair trade goods.  If you want to support women internationally on International Women’s Day, pop out and buy something Fairtrade.  Anything really…

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Day 10 – Today’s look, chunky knit!

Today’s outfit has rather suited the changeable weather, despite the fact that I intended to wear something very different…

Day 10 - Today's outfit, fair trade knitToday I am wearing:

Pants – The shocking pink ones from Pants to Poverty.  There are no small or medium in this colour any more, but they still seem to have them in Aubergine!

Bra – Made by me from Fairtrade certified cotton fabric (see the precursor and the Day 4 post for details).  I’m wearin the second bra today on the basis of its neutral colouring.  You can see a bit more of it than I would like in an ideal world.  I usually wear a flesh-coloured T-shirt under this dress to avoid that problem, but I don’t have a fair trade one, so I’m doing without.  I think I’m just about getting away with it…

SocksBishopston again.  Yes, the washing machine is getting some use this week.  I have just found another type of Fairtrade certified sock on the sockshop website, under the Steve Redgrave brand.  They’re men’s and too big for me, but at least it’s an option!

Leggings – People Tree again.  There are more here.

Dress – Freya Hand Knit dress from People Tree.  It’s from autumn the year before last and I can’t find any more available on the web, but I think it serves to demonstrate that People Tree knitwear is worth checking out.  It was my splurge purchase of the season, and I love it.  It’s 100% wool and so doesn’t carry Fairtrade certification, (see more on this in the Day 3 post), but it’s fair trade credentials are spot on – see below…

Bag – My lovely Harlequin-made bag from fair trade babycord.

As I mentioned, I was intending to wear a completely different outfit today, but the lovely blouse that I nearly finished last night needed button holes and my machine wasn’t prepared to cooperate.  Blouses without buttonholes don’t function appropriately so I settled for today’s outfit, a trip to the sewing machine man first thing tomorrow morning and an afternoon spent ‘pimping’ my bag.

Frayed fair trade cotton fabric strip stitched ready to become a rough flower centre

Frayed fabric strip stitched ready to become a rough flower centre

The start point was the leftover bias cord from creating my flower cuff for Day 6.  I knew this colour would help the bag tone in with the dress and that it worked well on the flower loom.  I just needed something to tie that to the bag colour.  A brief hunt through my scrap collection provided the perfect strip of rich brown cotton, which I frayed along both long edges.  Then I stitched a zigzag of running stitch back and forth across Fabric flower attached to the bagthe fabric strip.  I pulled this tight, and then twisted the twirly bunch of ruffles into a very rough flower centre.  It seemed to work okay.  Then I attached it to the flower loom piece, stitched a brooch clasp to the back and added it to the bag.

Now I have something that works for today and the promise of something new all but ready to go for tomorrow too.

Back to the dress.  People Tree, if you hadn’t guessed by now, is one of those organisations I believe can be trusted to provide fair trade clothing with maximum positive impact on producer communities whether or not those items are able to fall within the fairly strict confines of Fairtrade certification.  Their knitwear demonstrates a really well thought through strategy that drives everything that they do. The approach is – if there’s a technique, embellishment or detail that will add labour to a product, use it.  This includes working with handloom woven cottons, hand embroidery, block printing and of course hand knitting.

All these labour-intensive and hand-worked processes not only add to the number of producers who can be supported by the creation of a single garment, but often they reduce it’s carbon footprint and help to retain and promote traditional skills which might otherwise disappear.  And they make them so much more special.

Today’s dress was knitted by hand in Nepal, at Kumbeshwar Technical school.  KTS is a fair trade non-profit NGO established in 1983 to support socially and economically deprived people. Originally focused on helping the local low caste Pode community, KTS now supports families throughout Nepal.  They provide a school for 250 underprivileged children, vocational training and job opportunities as well as running an orphanage.  They specialize in carpet weaving, hand knitting and carpentry, with profits ploughed back into the community.

If you want to know more, there’s an illuminating interview here with model Laura Bailey who visited KTS 18 months ago.

Fingers crossed for the sewing machine man tomorrow.  Otherwise I might be back to T-shirt and jeans again!

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Day 9 – Today’s look, back to black

Still sunny but frankly just a touch chilly today so I’m glad of the long sleeves.  And I’m missing my other half who’s been away for a couple of days.  The guest photographers, Don and Phil, who have been very accommodating, frankly haven’t had the confidence/sheer nerve of my lovely husband when it comes to saying things like ‘Pull your tummy in for heaven’s sake.  You look pregnant’ or that kind of thing.  Anyway, he’s home now, so we’ll be back to the usual standard tomorrow!

Day 9 outfit - Back to blackToday I am wearing:

Bra – Made by me from Fairtrade certified cotton fabric (see ‘And so it begins’ post).

Pants – Fairly Floral from ‘Life’s not Fair but my Knickers are.’  As ever, you can buy them here.  The last few times I’ve checked on the actual ‘Life’s not Fair but my Knickers are‘ home page, there has been an ad saying ‘Everything in stock now reduced.’  I’m hopeful that this means they will shortly be launching some new stuff!

Dress – People Tree Black zip dress from a previous season.  Freakily, when searching for this one online, I found it on E-bay – size 12 and new for only £5!  Once again, the producers have already been paid their Fairtrade premiums etc etc so it would still be a purchase you could feel good about!

Leggings – People Tree.  They have several styles here.

Socks  – Well it seems I was wrong yesterday about the number of pairs of fair trade socks I had washed, so no socks today!

Necklace – Tagua necklace as yesterday.  I’d forgotten how much I love it and had to wear it again today.  There’s a similar one available from Traidcraft here, but there’s only one left and it’s in the sale reduced to £10 so be quick if you’re interested!

I’ve also been wearing my trench coat with this outfit today (see day 2 post).  I do love that coat…

There’s no ‘make’ today.  Strictly speaking there has been lots of making, but nothing actually finished, so nothing to photograph.  I’ll try to rectify that with 2 on one day before the end of the week!

I did want to say a bit about the cotton trade today though. Yesterday I was able to give some examples of fair trade really working in practice to lift poor producers out of poverty, but I haven’t really outlined the particular problems that make cotton such a rotten business to be in for so many of the world’s poor.

There are 5 shocking cotton facts that continue to make me cringe each time I think about them:

1. If the USA stopped paying illegal subsidies to its cotton farmers, approximately 1,000,000 people would be lifted out of food poverty
The World Trade Organisation has twice ruled against the US for paying illegal cotton subsidies to its farmers. These subsidies distort the world market price, reducing the income poor farmers can get for their cotton.  Frequently, this means that farmers in the developing world, who can produce cotton very cheaply, are unable even to cover the input costs of their cotton crop.  Negotiations between Brazil, who brought the action against the USA, the WTO and the US government are ongoing, but thus far have resulted only in large compensation payments to Brazil’s cotton industry.  These have absolutely no beneficial effect on the poorest cotton farmers in West Africa and India, who have not the resources to pursue the issue with the WTO.

2. Indian cotton farmers commit suicide at the rate of 3 per day
Unable to make a living from their land they feel they have no alternative.

Actually the suicide rate had gone up from this the last time I checked, to 3 a day in just one state, but I haven’t the heart to update this statistic today.  Playing an as-yet-poorly-understood role in the particular issues at play in India is the GM cotton seed known as Bt cotton.  Whether it’s because the additional costs of growing it outweigh the benefits of increased yield, or because there seems to be a great deal of counterfeit seed which costs the same amount but isn’t in fact, resistant to the boll worm like it’s supposed to be.  Or because the boll worm has already mutated to take account of this modification.  Or because the Bt seed needs a greater volume of water to produce the expected increased yields.  Whatever is going on, the result is that cotton farmers who are on the edge of disaster in any given season, whose selling price is adversely affected by market distortions in the world and who have in many cases risked everything on a new seed variant, are finding that they have reached the absolute limit and see no way forward for themselves and their families.

3. Of the 37 nations on the IMF’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries list, 8 depend heavily on cotton for export
It is the poorest people in the poorest countries that are affected by the distortions in international trade caused by subsidies.

With an average GDP per capita of $637, and among the least developed countries on earth, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali (known as the Cotton-4 or C-4) rely on cotton more than any other commodity for their export revenues.  These four countries can produce cotton more cheaply than anywhere else, but the US (and EU) subsidies distort the market to the extent that much of the suitable land has been taken out of cotton cultivation.  This has led to a reduction in exports for these nations, which further reduces government revenues.  This leaves them incapable of putting in place the required infrastructure to stimulate a more profitable cotton industry based on the sale of manufactured goods rather than ‘raw’ cotton.

4. Forced child labour is used to harvest approximately half the Uzbekistan cotton crop
Children aged between 10 and 15 work for little or no pay to harvest up to half of the Uzbek cotton crop.  Uzbekistan’s cotton industry is centrally controlled, which enables the compulsory closure of schools from September to November and the enforced use of child labour for the cotton harvest.  Children who fail to pick their quota face fines, physical punishment or expulsion from school, and their parents may have their utilities or social benefits cut off.  Children in rural areas are also compelled to weed the cotton fields in the spring season and so miss a total of 3-4 months of education every school year.

5. Cotton takes up 4% of the world’s agricultural land, but is responsible for 25% of pesticide use
I’ve seen slight variances in this statistic, but all analysts would agree that non-organic cotton production requires disproportionate levels of pesticide use.  Aldicarb is commonly used on cotton crops. Just one drop absorbed through the skin would kill an adult.  Cotton is primarily grown in developing countries where protective clothing is not standard issue and poisonings are recorded at horrifying levels.

I’ll provide sources of further information for all the above in a post at the end of Fairtrade Fortnight, but thought I should at least give a flavour of the core reasons why the growth of fair trade and transparency in the cotton industry are so important.  Enough said.

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